Philippines: Illegal Cars Pulped in Corruption Omen

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte donned a hard hat on Tuesday as he watched bulldozers flatten dozens of smuggled luxury vehicles in an symbolic attempt to galvanise the fight against corruption.

Rodrigo Duterte is inside an official state car with Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence copyRodrigo Duterte in a luxury state car on a visit to Vietnam (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)A total of 30 vehicles, including used Lexus, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Jaguar, Corvette Stingray, as well as an assortment of Japanese SUVs, were wasted at a customs yard in the capital of Manila and at the ports of Davao and Cebu.

The destruction was carried out “in compliance with the directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” the country’s Bureau of Customs said on its Facebook wall.

Duterte, who was in attendance with various other ministers for the unprecedented spectacle, ordered the cars to be reduced “to scrap metal.”

The vehicles - worth a combined 61.6 million pesos (US $1.2 million) - were seized after they were illegally brought to the shores of the Southeast Asian archipelago.

“Give it to the buyer of steel,” Duterte instructed his officials, according to Reuters. “They cannot have cars like that. But they can get something, make toys out of it.”

The PR stunt is understood to be a graft warning to shady officials as Duterte presses on with his fight against corruption.

The Bureau of Customs, one of the state's most important revenue-generating agencies, is responsible for collecting import taxes.

It seized US $2.92 million worth of smuggled vehicles in 2017, a fraction of the US $865 million total of impounded goods, government data suggested. However, it is consistently ranked as one of the country's most corrupt government agencies.

Customs commissioner Isidro Lapena said in a speech at the car-crushing ceremony that he has reassigned 691 of around 7,000 employees since he took up the post in August last year. Two other employees were fired and 16 others have been suspended over alleged illegalities.

“It does not pay to evade taxes in the Philippines so might as well stop trying, because you will never succeed,” Duterte's finance minister, Carlos Dominguez, told reporters before the diggers were let loose, according to the Daily Mail.

Seized smuggled vehicles are usually confiscated and then auctioned with profits going to government coffers. "I will pay for them, no problem," Duterte said.